Two weeks, two wins for the Cardinals, as they rolled by Kent State and Murray State
Last week, Louisville bounced back to cruise to a 42-3 win over Kent State. Louisville allowed 150 total yards and forced three turnovers, including a pick-six by Trumaine Washington. Despite Louisville’s four turnovers, Lamar Jackson threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, also running for one more. Malik Williams also added two scores of his own.
And on Saturday, the Cards notched their first 50+ point game of the season in a 55-10 blowout of Murray State. U of L held the Racers to 80 total yards, limiting them to under one yard per carry. Jackson continued his stellar play with three touchdown passes, two of them to redshirt freshman Dez Fitzpatrick.
Let’s get some pros and cons from these two tune-up sessions.
The main focus here is on the freshmen, who managed to get valuable experience and could be in line for starting jobs (if they aren’t already).
Puma Pass had solid performances in both games. Puma showed he was able to work through progressions quickly and was efficient, even navigating an 18-play, 98-yard drive to close the game against Murray State. Where I do see improvement is in the deep passing game and extending plays with his feet. He took a couple of sacks against Murray State, but avoiding them should be something he’ll get better at as he matures.
As of last week, Mekhi Becton is the top-rated freshman in college football per Pro Football Focus. Becton was one of my top picks as a breakout player this season, and he’s been pretty solid from day one. Having another quality offensive tackle is a luxury Louisville has yearned for, and now they have it in Becton and junior Geron Christian.
On defense, Dorian Etheridge had a solid outing, leading all Cardinals with nine tackles (two for a loss) against Kent State. Russ Yeast earned a couple of starts and led a group that allowed 72 yards in both games combined, also showing some potential as a viable punt returner. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him start at cornerback possibly, while guys like C.J. Avery and TreSean Smith also get more playing time.
Turnovers continue to be a weakness for Louisville. The Cards coughed it up four times against the Flashes, and lost the turnover battle to both Kent State and Murray State. One of those turnovers was a botched snap that resulted in a Murray State touchdown.
In the two-game stretch, Louisville receivers fumbled it twice inside enemy territory after long pass completions. Those are backbreakers, when the Cardinals could have added more points in both of those games. I’d expect ball security to be a focal point for Louisville, for the rest of the season.
Not a whole lot else to write about, in terms of where Louisville could have been better. Lamar Jackson completed 75% of his throws in the two-game stretch, but had an errant throw intercepted in the third quarter.
Colin Wilson’s injury comes at an unfortunate time for Louisville; the freshman averaged over ten yards per carry in both games, but left with an injury in the third quarter. The injury leaves Louisville with a thinner lineup at running back, especially when it appeared Wilson could have worked his way towards more reps.
U of L’s grade against Kent State is slightly harsh, but I’d say a B+. The defense had back-to-back lights out performances against the Flashes and the Racers, and they’ll serve as confidence builders heading into October. But four turnovers limited the potential the offense had, one where they probably could have scored 50+ if they were avoided.
As for Murray State, this is their first A performance of 2017. Louisville’s defense really set the tone throughout the game, and they managed to shut down Murray State’s offense entirely. No sacks were recorded, but the defensive line managed to get penetration and disrupt a few plays. Aside from the botched snap and fumble, Louisville’s offense had a near perfect performance. Lamar Jackson did Lamar Jackson things, and Louisville’s one punt ended up resulting in points for the Cardinals. All in all, a solid day at Cardinal Stadium for Louisville.
See you on Thursday when the Cards roll into Raleigh, to face NC State.